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Stories from the New Aesthetic

By Zoë Salditch

Last week, Stories from the New Aesthetic, part of Rhizome's New Silent Series, took place at The New Museum of Comtemporary Art. 

The New Aesthetic is an ongoing research project by James Bridle, investigating the intersections of culture and technology, history and memory, and the physical and the digital. At a panel at South by Southwest this past March, Aaron Straup Cope, Ben Terrett, James Bridle, Joanne McNeil, and Russell Davies discussed ideas related to the project, which sparked a series of responses and ideas from artists, writers, and theorists across the web.

For this event, Bridle was joined by McNeil and Cope again to share their stories related to these ideas.

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netwurker 3 years, 1 month agoReply

Bridle's talk > [If I had to traditionally-article-title this it would read: "Pretty Censorship" and "Ability to Act at a Distance": Bridle and a Potential Propaganda (as Opposed to New) Aesthetic] Bridle describes himself as "unconcerned but not indifferent" (aping Man Ray): a phrase that might just sum up inherent dangers of the New Aesthetic movement as projected by theorists - being "unconcerned" about the deeper/more insidious consequences of curating [= cogitating about] streams of links that reference, and hence act to habitualize (through repeated examples) networked machine vision, drone interventions, satellite image snippets, bot agents etc. This type of emphasis on the merging/integration/frizzonic connection of the physical and digital becomes a type of hollow fashion equivalent that allows inroads for the surveillance state mentality, with scary potentials associated with militarised machinic control (ie the possible domination of human agency - think how Big Brother has in{per}versely twisted from Orwell's vision to a Reality TV series). This conceptualisation/adoption of such militarised/surveillance discourse could act to ultimate devalue Bridle's emphasis on (what deliciously lies/rubs/dwells within) the intersection of the phenomenological + the network [or real + physical].

Also, Bridle's idea of "code space" = seems a trifle old skool to me, but then again I've been de/reconceptualising this stuff yonks:
"In _Social Tesseracting_: Part 1, we learnt that:
1. Dimensionality defines working concepts of reality.
2. Theoretically, dimensionality can also expand to define a spectrum of nascent social actions.
3. These particular social actions encompass communication trends defined by synthetic interactions.
4. Synthetic interactions create social froth that can be produced geophysically or geolocatively. Both connection types depend on relevant electronic gesturing
5. This mix of synthetic interactions and electronic gesturing provokes a descriptive framework of this aggregated sodality. This framework is termed Social Tesseracting.
6. In order to adequately formulate Social Tesseracting, contemporary theorists need to extend “valid” reality definitions based currently on the endpoint of the geophysical…"

[From: http://arsvirtuafoundation.org/research/2009/06/01/_social-tesseracting_-part-2/]

Bridle's dismissal of arguments centred around "re-contextualisation" ["…then there was a whole fight about re-contextualisation which I thought was old hat now but apparently people get really angry if you just publish screenshots…"] seems curious. Encoding social engineering [Taskrabbit] gets more to the heart of it [you get a tick for this, James]. Bridle is "still trying to figure it out" [good] + states that he "…know nothing about Art and I certainly know nothing about the artworld and galleries and curation…" which explains several puzzling aspects about his delivery and overall thought-train. "…I don't care about opinions about this kind of stuff and it's very important to work out how we proceed on that basis without losing all forms of kinds of criticism 'cos I think criticism incredible important" = interesting in that it ties nicely into the concept of regenerative comprehension: "Regenerative Comprehension: indicated by rapid shifts in the nature of content creation and absorption. A primary example is Twitter’s chronologically-reversed tweet reading order acting to modify awareness". Bridle chain-links quotes and phrases while referencing books + gravestones: he conversationally links to resources in order to weave a compelling lecture (and in a small way I'm curious by Bridle's emphasis on repeatedly using the format of an old skool, didactic lecture/talk in order to frame his ideas (and that he may not perceive any irony in that)]. Tarot = "machine for story telling and a storage device for story telling" + technology being similar: "I think technology is like that: it's a compression machine, and a writing machine, for stories and for the stories that we want to write with it" = head-tilt-worthy.

McNeil's talk > Idea of (the delicious duality of) a liebox = fascinating (thanks): conflating/equating stories with lies seems less so[tho the phrase (modelled after Kubrick's great 2001 scene) "My God, it's full of lies" does spring to mind]. As for identity construction online: [i]"Identity formation is deemed beneficial via the mechanics of statistical marking and the achievable entrenching of a subject into a surrounding social milieu. Medical and psychopathological models frame the concept through a health dichotomy that positions dysfunctional identity as potentially Dissociative. This type of fragmented dissociation from a subject’s internalised concept of self is viewed as undesirable. Alternatively in synthetic environments a type of projected or distributed Identity is considered acceptable _and_ beneficial.

Most synthetic creches – whether they be gamer-pitched, environmental or social networking in orientation – form identities that emulate the ecological or topological. Instead of relying on preformed psychological or sociological architectures, MMOEs and virtual environments encourage deliberately fluctuating Identity construction. These identities, established through the use of avatars or profile creation, alter according to the foibles of specific platforms and interfaces [think: Seesmic, Facebook, Meez, ExitReality, or Vivaty]. A subject may have a multitude of profiles created across a wide distribution base. Each profile may consist of the creation of two-dimensional or three-dimensional projections such as multiple character creation in WoW. Individuals may also utilise programs that allow for cross-navigation of such profiles according to usage patterns. These staggered profiles create a type of _Socialphrenic_ functioning that eclipses solo-persona extensions. For example, a Facebook user may create a profile that constructs a user’s identity according to variables such as their name, age, education, employment and interests. However, a user is not restricted in terms of manipulating these answers to evoke an identity structure vastly removed from their primary geophysical housing. An illustration of this is a current ARG narrative strand that situates itself in two active “false” user profiles on _Twitter_ and _Facebook_. The fictionalised Identity associated with each profile encourages other traditional identity-defined users to interact and engage with it. Some of those users defined as reflecting a _true_ identity may be unaware of the fictionalised profiling involved.

Other identity intonations can be creatively interpreted via the employment of Gravatars or Profile picture selections. This selective presentation of visual Identity stamps are mirrored in channel adoptions appropriate to specific Synthaptic identities. Connected users display the slipperiness of identity markers when engaged within a synthetic environment; users may reference a fellow Synthetic by their character/avatar name even when interacting in phenomenologically-defined reality."

[From: http://arsvirtuafoundation.org/research/2008/05/23/identity-ecologies-avatar-formations/]